MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As expected, Will Grier’s hand surgery won’t allow West Virginia’s quarterback to play in next week’s bowl game, though coach Dana Holgorsen joked, “I told him if he declared for the NFL I was going to make him play.”

After recently confirming plans to return for his senior season, Grier still has problems gripping the football, and Holgorsen said he’s on schedule to join the offseason program that starts Jan. 9.

“Today is a good recruiting day, but that was the most important recruiting day,” Holgorsen said in reference to retaining Grier. “To recruit him and get him to come back for his senior year, that was Step 1. I think that will help us with a lot of momentum going into 2018.”

Sophomore Chris Chugunov is preparing for the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Utah, his second start since Grier broke a bone and dislocated the middle finger on his throwing hand. In a little more than seven quarters of game action since the injury, Chugunov has completed 24-of-46 passes for 326 yards and a touchdown.

“The timing with Chris and his receivers is naturally going to be better after five weeks,” Holgorsen said. “We’ll let him spin it around a little bit.”

Chugunov has gone 65 passes without an interception, dating back to last season.

New fullback

Redshirt freshman linebacker Logan Thimons is working at fullback through bowl practices, potentially giving West Virginia a solution for next season after Elijah Wellman graduates.

“We’re not sure if it will stick, but since we have 13 or 14 linebackers, it gives Logan an opportunity,” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.

Wellman’s bowl appearance will mark his 51st game as a Mountaineer and his 25th start.

“He walks it, he lives it, he acts it,” Holgorsen said. “He walked off that practice field (Wednesday) with tears in his eyes because it was the last time. That’s how much it means to him.”

No word on Bosch

Offensive line coach Joe Wickline dodged questions about the health of senior guard Kyle Bosch, who missed the season finale at Oklahoma.

Developmental standouts

With December bowl practices providing opportunities for young players to make an impression, two freshman safeties stood out — E.J. Brown and Exree Loe.

One of them won’t be a safety any longer, as the 6-foot, 208-pound Loe is transitioning to Sam linebacker.

“We’re going to move him down into the box,’ Gibson said, “so I told him to quit fighting it and start eating.”

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